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Cardio vs. Weights: Which Is Best for You?

By Tom Herrin

Cardio vs. Weights: Which Is Best for You?

If you have ever been concerned about your health needs, as you should be, you have likely given considerable thought to the best types of exercise for you.

If you’ve ever given serious thought to exercise, you’ve probably wrestled with one of the foundational questions in the field: cardio or weights? Is it better to run or better to lift?

The decision isn’t always as easy as it may seem. There are several things that come into play because we all have different needs and body types. Exactly what kind of improvement we want to see may be a big determining factor in how we go about it, and how many days a week we do our program. A routine that may work for a friend may not work at all for you. Individualization is extremely important. Some people buy into something just because it has a flashy advertising campaign. It may look good, but it may serve no practical purpose for you.

Even if we are in the beginning stages of our workout, we all know that, in order to be as healthy as possible, we should participate in some kind of physical activity. It is widely known that it can improve our heart rate. According to the American Heart Association, adults should strive to get 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. The AHA also recommends some kind of muscle strengthening activity two days per week. Each of us can then determine just how our program will serve us best.

Which Is Better for Fat Burning, Cardio or Weights?

The most common goal for many individuals is finding a way to burn fat off their bodies. There’s plenty of evidence that spare tires are pretty easy to collect, but getting rid of it is another kind of problem. We generally associate this with weight loss. Maintaining a healthy body weight should always be a concern and a goal. This is yet another area in which the answer may not be absolute for all of us. One individual may be plenty lean and, actually, need to add a little body weight, while another may be the more typical pear-shaped obese person who wants to start out with a better look in the mirror.

The Health Benefits of Cardio

How often have you seen someone out beating the pavement as they attempt to keep a schedule for losing weight? Your answer may well be that you see them constantly. Lots of people engage in a daily routine that includes putting in lots of miles running or jogging. Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming, bicycling, aerobic dancing, etc., burns more calories. These are just some of what is considered to be cardio exercise because they help to increase the heart rate and keep it that way as we breathe steadily to replenish our oxygen supply.

Cardio activities usually include a high number of reps and/or steady movement. These could include jumping rope, running, biking, or playing some kind of sport, such as racquetball. It is known as a great way to support good health. According to some sources at, cardio exercise can be a great way to help those with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar. Information from Johns Hopkins indicates that such exercise can help combat high blood pressure. If you can manage these issues with less medication, or none at all, you have scored a major victory with your health. The fewer artificial substances you have to put into your body, the better. This alone may be a good reason to get involved in some kind of cardio activity. But it’s not always about pounding the pavement to get your cardio. Many people are finding that there are lots of games out there that suit their purposes. Playing basketball or soccer can also elevate the heart rate while increasing your number of steps.

How hard we go at any kind of exercise obviously will have an effect on our success. Whether it is some kind of cardio or resistance training, it is possible to do intense exercises. The positive benefits of doing so at this level are many. You can determine that you are at a higher intensity if you are sweating early, breathing deeply, and able to speak only a few words without taking a breath. Using good judgment can help you to know if you need to slow your pace. You don’t want your program to overtax your body.

The Health Benefits of Weight Training

Those who are looking for lots of bang for their buck may want to strongly think about something more strenuous. Lifting weights can yield great results. The benefits of strength training may move this type of workout to the top of the rating scale. Besides the known fact that it can help to build muscle, it can also be an effective way to generate fat loss. Improving strength can make life better for us overall. It can help reduce the risk of falls and allow us to have greater flexibility if combined with proper stretching. I find this kind of exercise to be of greater value to me, particularly when it is combined with a reasonable amount of cardio to balance it out. I love to ride on my bicycle to get in some cardio. Like so many other things in life, exercise is similar: balance is the real key to anything we do.

A Real World Example

Younger men are often more into weights and try to work on developing a certain muscle group, such as biceps and shoulders. It is still possible, as you grow older, to add strength to problem areas. The knees are a classic example. Stationary weights are OK but I have become a much bigger fan of free weights. My preference is dumbbells because you are less likely to compensate (or cheat) as you are able to do with a barbell. In other words, you may have a tendency to use one hand more than the other and boost the barbell with the preferred hand. Another benefit for me was improving posture and overall fitness by working out with weights.

The Winner?

Answering the question of cardio or weights really boils down to our overall needs. It is vitally important for us to develop a good sense of our own body’s needs. This may depend on our daily routine, for example. If we are in a sedentary job, we likely need something that gets us moving in order to make up the difference. Sitting for extended periods of time each day can be bad for our health. It can slow our metabolic rate and contribute to problems with the heart. If you are in a job that keeps you moving more, you may not have to worry about it when determining your fitness program.

If you are in need of something you can do as part of a moderate routine, you may prefer walking, jogging, or bicycling. Any of these excellent exercises can provide you with some good relaxation to help get your mind cleared. I always benefit from this kind of cardio activity. It can be good for relieving stress. It’s a great way to start out your health regimen if you have not been very active in recent times. If you can get rid of a little stress, you may be able to become more focused; this alone may help you to make better decisions about the kind of program you want and can benefit from.

If there is a winner in this process, it will be you. Make certain to evaluate whatever kind of program you decide to adopt. Because you have to set goals at the beginning, you need to do a check as to whether or not you can reach those goals on some kind of a regular basis.

Be honest with your coach, even if it is you. How often are you working out? Are you working out according to a plan you made? A third thing to consider is whether or not you are making real gains. Do you have greater strength and ability? You must remember to begin a program with some kind of purpose. Do you see positive changes from Day 1? Remember, this is your program, and its primary purpose is to make you healthier. If it’s not doing that, then you need to reevaluate. The last thing you want to be doing is running in place.

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